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Buses bring tourists to 'Music and the Spoken Word'

A single microphone in the Tabernacle on Temple Square was the main piece of recording equipment that carried the Mormon Tabernacle Choir’s “Music and the Spoken Word” program on its first radio broadcast on July 15, 1929. For 87 years the program has been broadcast on the radio, making it one of the longest running programs in the United States, and then in 1962 the broadcast also started appearing on television.

“Today ‘Music and the Spoken Word’ is viewed with increasing frequency on social media channels, such as YouTube, Facebook, and the choir website by people around the world, from the United States and Chile to the Philippines and England” (Mormon Tabernacle Choir website).

Thousands of people listen and watch the program all over the world on television, radio or online. In fact, during the choir’s recent European tour, many concert attendees described their joy at being able to hear the choir live after listening to “Music and the Spoken Word” for years (please see coverage of the tour in previous Church News editions). Each week the broadcast is aired in English, Spanish and Portuguese and twice a year, for the program preceding general conference, it is translated into over 60 languages.

Even with all of the ways to watch electronically, hundreds still flock to Temple Square or the Conference Center to hear the program live. Each week dozens of buses line up along West Temple to bring tour groups to “Music and the Spoken Word.”

Peggy Richards, who drives a tour bus for Holiday Motor Coach, said that in the summer months, “We get tours continuously.” Sister Richards said that she brings people from all over the world, including groups from China, Australia, Korea and many other countries. During the high tourist season — May through September — she is home only long enough to “do [her] laundry” before she drives another tour.

On Sunday, July 31, she brought a tour of Chinese Immersion Program teachers to “Music and the Spoken Word” and to tour Temple Square. The teachers will work in schools around the state. Sister Richards, who is a native of Salt Lake City, said that the teachers were trying to get a feel for the culture in Utah. Other stops on their tour included the Utah Capitol Building and Antelope Island.

City Sights Inc., which has specialized in sightseeing tours around Salt Lake City for more than 30 years, conducts a Mormon Tabernacle Choir tour that brings people from around the United States and other countries to listen to the choir’s weekly broadcasts and rehearsals. Michael Williams, owner of City Sights Inc., said that most of his tours are filled with people from across the United States, but about 5 percent come from other countries.

Mr. Williams also said that the Mormon Tabernacle Choir tour, which visits other Salt Lake sites as well, is one of their most popular tours. “Our tour guides give a great tour,” but the Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square are always the highlight of the tour. “Nothing else compares,” he said. They average about 20 people on their tour every Sunday for the broadcast.

“Music and the Spoken Word” takes place each Sunday at 9:30 a.m. During the summer and the month of December it is held in the Conference Center, while the rest of the year it is held in the Tabernacle on Temple Square. For more information on how to attend a broadcast or to view a past broadcast, visit mormontabernaclechoir.org or musicandthespokenword.com.

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